Meet the Maker: Rosanna Morris

I am an illustrator and printmaker, working mainly with relief. I work from my small barn studio set in a friend’s smallholding in the Herefordshire countryside. I also run a printmaking studio in Bristol from which (in pre epidemic times) I ran workshops and printmaking events.

Describe your printmaking process.

I usually start with a pencil drawing, followed by a looser ink painting to design my prints. I then make my prints by using Japanese or Swiss carving tools to carve away the areas that I don’t want to be seen. I then ink up and print them on handmade papers using my huge hand-built etching press, Bubolina.

How and where did you learn to print?

I started making prints when I was 19 years old on an Art Foundation at Bristol School of Art. I wanted to turn my pen and ink drawings into large scale posters to wheat paste locally but couldn’t afford the digital printing costs. At the time, it made total sense to me that I should just transfer my images and carve them out of wood to make a giant stamp. I didn’t really consider it a mammoth undertaking, but my first print was a meter long and half a meter wide.  After that I became pretty addicted to the process and hand burnished all my prints for years until my partner persuaded me that he could build a press, and then Cato press, our printmaking studio, was built.

Why printmaking?

It’s an addictive process in itself, carving away areas methodically once an image is designed for me is a kind of meditation. And then, of course, the moment you make your first proof of a design is always very satisfying.

I think for me it’s the political place print lies in the art world that draws me to it. Printmaking with relief is, in my opinion, the most democratic of art forms. You need very little in the way of tools or specialist material to make prints and yet the medium allows anyone using it to get their ideas out there and seen by the people. I’ve always been fascinated with the way print was used during the Mexican peasant revolution to educate and inform the revolt.

Where do you work?

From my little barn room set on a friend’s beautiful six-acre smallholding. It’s got thick stone walls and thankfully an insulated roof, so hopefully, the winter won’t be too harrowing. My neighbours are two geese called Horace and Myfanwy and a flock of beautiful runner ducks. Its all pretty new to me still as we only recently moved to the area from Bristol, but I’m already in love with it.

Describe a typical day in your studio.

I usually arrive at the studio after dropping my kids at school, just after 9, make a coffee and open up my sketchbooks. There’s no internet in my little barn, which I’ve found has been immensely productive for me. If I need to look something up or contact someone I have to walk down the country lane and perch next to the geese to get any signal. I generally spend time drawing, reading and carving, going for a walk when I get a bit stuck or need to work through an idea. The farm dog Bludwen, an ancient black spaniel often comes and keeps me company whilst I carve and listen to audiobooks in the background. The working day ends at 3 when I rush off across the fields to pick my kids up from school.

How long have you been printmaking?

Over ten years now, on an off.  

What inspires you?

My main inspiration over the years has been farming and where it lies in our collective modern culture. I grew up in a very urban environment, on a council estate, completely disconnected from my food and where it comes from. I think my work has always revolved around going back to the land, a simpler and more rural way of life, the importance of this and our own responsibility for taking care of the land on which we rely.

What is your favourite printmaking product?

I couldn’t survive without my caligo safewash inks, I love them so much and it was such a revolution for me to be able to move away from oil based. I also love my Pfeil carving tools. 

What have you made that you are most proud of?

I think the three calendars I have worked on for the Landworkers’ Alliance would be one of my biggest achievements. Working for such a brilliant organisation, whose work I believe in has been such an honour over the years.

Where can we see your work? Where do you sell?

On my website and in some lovely small shops around the UK, there should be a list on my site.

What will we be seeing from you next?

I am working on some seed sowing guides for flowers and vegetables and really excited to be releasing them later this year.

Do you have any advice for other printmakers and creatives?

Just keep going, keep dedicated and believe that if you spend your days doing what you love it will all be worth it. I had some very rough and very poor times starting out where I wanted to throw it all in and get a job in a cafe, I’m so glad now that I had the support I needed and persevered.

To see more from Rosanna follow her on Instagram.